Ukraine: a report on life in besieged Kyiv

A mother with her son in a basement in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
Image Alliance / Associated Press | Kunihiko Miura

To protect herself from Russian attacks, Julia W. Night with her family in a shelter in Kyiv.

We didn’t talk much to each other in the basement. “It was a bit quiet. We were waiting,” Julia tells us over the phone.

During the night, she insulted everyone who “came to us with war”.

Like many Ukrainians, Julia W. Thursday night to the sound of an explosion. “Then I heard a military plane flying over our apartment,” the 42-year-old teacher told us over the phone.

Julia and. With her husband Nikolai, a businessman, and their two sons, ages 12 and 18, in an apartment in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

The city was famous for its many cathedrals and churches with golden domes, and is now a theater of war. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his forces attack Ukraine, including the huge city of Kyiv.

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‘We were so scared’

To protect herself from attacks, Julia and her family went to a school basement around 5 p.m. Thursday, which served as a shelter. Two rooms are about 30 square metres, she said. “We were so scared,” she recalls.

There were about 50 people. Julia reported that adults, children, infants, the very old, and even dogs and cats were taken. There were chairs and a heater that worked.

We didn’t talk much to each other in the basement. “It was kinda quiet. We were waiting,” Julia says. Everyone was staring at their cell phones and looking for information on the internet. The main thing for people was to find official sources. With a lot of fake news circulating, finding the right information was a big deal. It’s hard, nobody sleeps.

Ukrainians in a bunker in Lviv

Ukrainians in a bunker in Lviv
Image Alliance / Associated Press | Kunihiko Miura

Julia and prayed. the army in the basement

An advantage and at the same time a disadvantage was that the sirens could not be heard in the cellar. “So there was no panic,” Julia says. I only noticed something when someone went out to smoke or to stretch their legs.

In the cellar, Julia prayed for the army. “I realized that we were only alive thanks to them,” says the Ukrainian. But she did not only pray: “I have cursed everyone who came to us with war.”

At four in the morning, they left the bunker and went home again.

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“In the morning, we saw very long queues at ATMs, pharmacies, supermarkets, and gas stations,” she says. When Julia was in the supermarket, there were not all the products, but the shelves were not completely empty either. “We can buy something. There was pasta, porridge and bread.”

She says there is a lot of work going on in hospitals. You constantly hear emergency vehicles driving down the streets. “There is a big call here to donate blood because there are so many wounded,” Julia says. “Blood type does not matter. You need as much blood as possible.”

“We are all ready to defend our country”

I heard that Russian tanks were heading towards Kyiv. We don’t know where to go so we don’t get shot. “All of Ukraine is under attack,” says Julia. She suspects that the danger of a Kyiv bombing is approaching. However, many residents remain behind to protect the city. Julia and her family will also be residing in Kyiv for the time being.

“We are all ready to defend our country,” Julia says. “Not only men, but women as well.” Thursday morning, they felt “depressed and shocked.” But now everyone is thinking about how to protect your children and take them out, says the mother of two.

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“My youngest son is afraid that his brother and father will step forward.”

Due to the state of emergency, male Ukrainian citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country. Her husband, Nikolai, and their 18-year-old son are affected by the rule.

“We don’t know what’s going on. My 12-year-old is very tired and scared.” Despite his young age, he understands well what’s going on, says Julia. Like everyone else, he’s been reading the news all night. “My youngest son is afraid that his brother and father are going to the front. He is very worried that our family will break.”

The family is currently in their apartment together, Julia tells us over the phone. They don’t know what will happen next. “We don’t even know what’s going to happen in 15 minutes,” Julia says. They kept hearing the explosions.

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